How Far Would You Walk for Water?

Mariama collecting waterMariama carries the orange and yellow bucket
Photo credit: WaterAid/Layton Thompson

“Mariama Oumara Dicko lives in an isolated village in Mali. Scarce water supplies during the dry season forces her to go out three times a day, every day, to collect dirty water from manmade ponds. Each journey takes three hours.”

March 22nd is World Water Day 2011. Across Africa, people spend between 3 and 10 hours a day collecting water. It is usually down to women and children to collect water, stopping them from gaining an education or earning a living and taking precious time that could be spent making permanent improvements to their circumstances.

What would you rather be doing?

WaterAid have put together a list that compares the time spent on typical activities in the UK to the time spent collecting water in developing countries:

  • Let’s get social: In the UK, people spend an average of five hours 48 minutes on social networking sites per week (comScore). In Sub-Saharan Africa, that’s two trips to collect water. What would you rather be doing?
  • I say! The average man will spend five hours a week staring at different women (Kodak Lens Vision Centres). In one week, the average woman in a developing country would have spent 21 hours collecting water.
  • Wedding bells: A bride-to-be spends an average of 250 hours preparing for a wedding. For a woman in Africa, that time could be spent making 83 trips to collect water. You can bet she’d rather be planning her big day!
  • Goal! Mr Average in Britain spends six hours and 12 minutes a week watching, talking about and keeping up-to-date on football (BT Vision). After that amount of time, a woman in the developing world could be making her third trip in one day to collect water.
  • Break a sweat: The average adult exercises just 50 minutes a week (WeightWatchers) – less than a third of one trip to collect 20kg of water.
  • Off to the shops: The average British woman spends 94 hours and 55 minutes shopping for food over one year, and more than 100 hours shopping for clothes (OnePoll). Women in sub-Saharan Africa spend the same amount of time collecting water in just one month. This time could be much better spent growing or selling their own food.
  • School’s out: It takes a mighty 3,600 study hours to complete an Open University Honours degree. That’s little more than three years spent fetching water – time better spent on education.
  • Beep, beep! It takes, on average, 47 hours of driving lessons to pass a driving test in the UK (DirectGov). In the same amount of time, millions in Africa will have made just 15 trips to collect water – and they won’t be making those journeys by car.
  • On track: The average daily commute in the UK takes 47 minutes and 48 seconds (TUC). It might feel like 47 minutes too many, but it’s still less than a third of the time it takes to collect water in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • A nice cuppa: We spend about six hours a week drinking tea and coffee (LearnDirect). That’s two trips to collect water, with no coffee break.

Call To Action

Access to clean, safe water doesn’t just save lives. It is essential to improving education, health, gender equality and economic growth.

Please take the time to sign WaterAid’s petition urging Government to take action to stop the water crisis.

Dig Toilets Not Graves


Today is Blog Action Day 2010, and the subject which was chosen by popular vote, is water.

I’d like to talk about WaterAid, a charity that I first heard of through the Glastonbury Festival, where they are one of the three ‘Worthy causes’ alongside Oxfam and Greenpeace (hence the accompanying picture of me in silly hat from this year’s festival). You can read more about WaterAid at Glastonbury here.

What’s the problem?

Nearly a billion people around the world have no access to safe drinking water.

4500 children die every day because they lack safe drinking water and basic sanitation.

Many children, particularly girls, get little or no education because they are often expected to collect water for the family.

Ensuring that everyone has access to safe water and sanitation is the first step to eliminating global poverty and social exclusion.

What does WaterAid do?

WaterAid works with partners around the world to provide practical solutions to provide safe water and effective sanitation to the poorest people around the world.

They also provide hygiene education and follow a community led approach that ensures that they work with the people they are helping, to provide sustainable solutions that belong to the community.

They publish research and policy guidance as well as developing standards of governance and accountability.

The Dig Toilets Not Graves Campaign

Have you ever been caught out, away from home and needed the loo? The chances are you have, but that you very quickly found a toilet somewhere nearby. In fact, there are so many toilets in the UK that you can even load up a free iPhone app from WaterAid that will locate your nearest public toilet.

Contrast this with the 1,500,000 children who die each year through lack of sanitation. In areas without toilets, human faeces contaminates water and food and leads to the spread of deadly diseases.

The tools and education provided by the The Dig Toilets Not Graves campaign can help to stop this situation. You can find out more here.

How can you help?

There are many ways that you help WaterAid to achieve their goals.

  • Look for them at events from Glastonbury to the Great North Run
  • Take part in their campaigns and offer your support as they lobby decision makers across the world
  • Get involved as a volunteer, organising events or fundraising
  • Or simply make a donation

If you’re a large organisation, please think about the opportunities for corporate sponsorship and partnering.